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X-Man targets Birmingham boost

16 February 2007

By Matt Slater

Sprint star Xavier Carter is aiming for a fast start to his first full season as a professional when he races at the Norwich Union Grand Prix on Saturday.

The 21-year-old American - who clocked world-class times at 100m, 200m and 400m in 2006 - is running the 400m at the National Indoor Arena.

"I'm feeling pretty well so I'm running to win in a fast time," Carter said.

"My goals for the year are to stay healthy and finish strong. I want to be the number one sprinter in the world."

Carter stormed to international prominence last summer with a breathtaking display at the Super Grand Prix meeting in Lausanne, Switzerland.

In only his second race outside of America, Carter won the 200m in 19.63 seconds, a time for the distance only bettered by Michael Johnson's extraordinary 19.32 at the Atlanta Olympics in 1996.

Johnson's benchmark had looked like one of the most secure world records in the books but Carter's rapid rise - Johnson was 28 and at the peak of his powers in 1996 - suggests it could come under threat far sooner than anybody predicted.

When asked if a record-breaking performance was on the cards this year, Carter, who confirmed he is still learning how to run the bend, replied: "Nothing is impossible."

Johnson, of course, also holds the world record at 400m and is currently coaching Carter's main rival over that distance, fellow American and 2004 Olympic champion Jeremy Wariner. Their battle for one-lap supremacy promises to be one of the sport's most exciting contests over the next few years.

While his Lausanne display brought the "X-Man" to the world's attention, the Louisiana State University student had already made a huge impression back at home.

A month earlier Carter had become the first athlete since the great Jesse Owens to win four titles at a single US college championships. He claimed gold in the 100m, 400m, 4x100m and 4x400m events - his individual victories, both in personal best times, coming just 30 minutes apart.

Remarkable though those achievements were, they were not his first brush with nationwide recognition.

At 6ft 3in and 15 stone, Carter was a stand-out American football prospect. A genuine two-sport star, he had been the highest-rated wide receiver coming out of high school in 2004.

But his sensational progress on the track has prompted Carter to give up the prospect of a potentially lucrative career in the National Football League.

A six-figure contract with Nike no doubt helped him to choose but it was not an easy decision and he has hinted that he could return to gridiron in the future.

"I've given up football for now and I'm only concentrating on running fast times," Carter told BBC Sport.

"It was hard because I loved playing football but I want to win medals on the track and you can't do both at the same time."

Carter's only previous visit to the UK came last July, a fortnight after Lausanne. On that occasion he was upstaged in the 200m, his favourite event, at Crystal Palace by his American rival Tyson Gay.

Having spent most of the winter doing "endurance work" with his coach Dennis Shaver at LSU's Baton Rouge campus, Saturday will be Carter's only indoor appearance in Europe this year.

He will then return to the US for the spring relay meets before returning to Europe in the summer to continue his preparations for the World Athletics Championships in Japan in September.

The 200m is no longer part of international indoor competition - as the bend is considered to be too tight - but Carter is more than happy to switch to his longer distance on Saturday.

Carter, who topped the world indoor rankings for the event in 2006 with a time of 45.28 seconds, will line up at the NIA alongside his compatriot Bershawn Jackson, the world 400m hurdles gold medallist, and Sweden's European 200m runner-up Johan Wissman. British hopes will rest on Robert Tobin.

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